With the unified Kree/Skrull Alliance looming on Earth's doorstep, Captain America knows he needs reinforcements - and thus the call is sent and answered in Empyre: Avengers.
In this upcoming three-issue series, writer Jim Zub and artist Carlos Magno lead a three-pronged approach that includes classic heroes like Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wonder Woman, and Mockingbird, as well as cult-favorites like Quicksilver, Luke Cage, Doctor Voodoo, Ka-Zar, Doctor Nemesis, and Black Knight.
Yes, Black Knight - the 1990s 'leather jacket' era Avengers' leader, back ahead of what Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski says will be "a big role" in the company's 2020 plans for Dane Whitman.
With Empyre: Avengers #1 (of 3) now scheduled for release on July 22 following delays due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Zub spoke to Newsarama about the series, the return of Black Knight, and the return to Savage Land.
Newsarama: Jim, this Empyre: Avengers limited series seems to give you the latitude to recruit your own Avengers team. First off, who's in your line-up here?
Jim Zub: It's not quite a blank slate to put anyone I want on the team, but I did have quite a bit of flexibility to use characters who weren't already committed to other Empyre stories, which was really nice.
Scarlet Witch, Vision, Black Knight, Quicksilver, Luke Cage, Doctor Voodoo, Wonder Man, Mockingbird, Ka-Zar, and Doctor Nemesis all show up during our three-issue sprint.
Nrama: How do they come together - and who's their leader?
Zub: It's not a traditional Avengers outing with everyone following one leader. The reason why there are 10 heroes here, along with Black Panther and Captain America providing extra leadership and guidance, is because the threat they're up against is global. It requires multiple heroes in multiple locations to try and turn the tide.
Nrama: Empyre seems to be a war fought on many fronts - what will this series focus on?
Zub: There are three separate missions underway happening simultaneously. Vision, Luke Cage, and Doctor Nemesis are confronting a mystery in Central Park; Wonder Man, Mockingbird, and Quicksilver are dealing with a confrontation near Navojoa, Mexico; and the rest of our crew heads to the Savage Land to deal with a threat that's larger and more dangerous than they can imagine.
Nrama: And who will they be fighting?
Zub: That's a spoiler. As everyone knows, the Kree and Skrull are involved in Empyre but that doesn't tell the whole tale. Suffice to say, it's nasty and absolutely worthy of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Nrama: Fans are excited to return to the Savage Land. What's that environ like for you as a fan and a writer?
Zub: Yeah, the Savage Land is a personal favorite and I've never really had the chance to dig into any stories there until now. Ka-Zar and Shanna are classic Marvel characters worthy of the spotlight and I found a fun way to bring a plot line I'd been planning to unveil in Agents of Wakanda at some point to the forefront here in a way that meshed really well with the larger Empyre plan.
A lot of readers know that pulp-adventure sensibility is near and dear to my heart and the mysterious dino-infested jungles of the Savage Land are a classic staple of that style of storytelling. Add in some of my favorite superheroes, especially Black Knight, who I've been itching to write for years, and it's a wonderful wild ride.
Nrama: You're working with artist Carlos Magno on this - what's he bring to the table?
Zub: Carlos is a detail machine. Seriously. His pages are George Perez-like in the level of intricate care he puts into every panel, every character and environment. When we tasked him with drawing literal armies in the jungle, he didn't he even flinch, he just went absolutely berserk, bringing his A-game to the story.
Colorist Espen Grundetjern is an old friend and I knew he'd pair up perfectly with Carlos' dense line work to make it explode with atmosphere and effects. Every page is packed, but never at the expense of the storytelling. They're quite the dream team.
Nrama: You've worked as part of big events before - what's unique about this one to you, as a writer in terms of function?
Zub: Although it's not the same kind of direct collaboration I had on weekly Avengers stories like "No Surrender" and Avengers: No Road Home, Empyre absolutely has a feeling of comraderie with everyone working on it. We're all telling stories we're passionate about within the scope of this amazing epic tale. There are a lot of great character moments that anchor the big battles and that means a lot to me.
Nrama: Big picture, what should fans look forward to with this series?
Zub: Magic and mayhem in murky mindscapes and muddy marshes.
Dinosaurs and destruction on a dire deadline.
Avengers against an astonishing array of aberrant antagonists!